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January 19 2014

Haiti, D.R.: Stateless in the Dominican Republic

jmc strategies blogs about the issue of Haitian statelessness in the Dominican Republic, specifically addressing anti-Haitian sentiment, questionable labour and living conditions, and forced repatriations, while offering solutions to the impasse.

December 13 2013

Haiti, Dominican Republic: Discriminatory Ruling

Haiti Chery reports that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ (IACHR) preliminary findings basically state that the “Dominican Constitutional Court Ruling TC168.13 is discriminatory and violates the rights of Dominicans of Haitian descent.”

November 18 2013

NACLA-Global Voices Partnership Tackles Gender & Sexuality in Latin America & the Caribbean

Women of Latin America and the Caribbean took to the Streets of Bogota on the the 12th International Feminist Meeting in 2011 to demand an end to violence against women and girls. Photo from Flickr user Say NO - UNiTE  (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Women of Latin America and the Caribbean took to the Streets of Bogota during the 12th International Feminist Meeting in 2011 to demand an end to violence against women and girls. Photo from Flickr user Say NO – UNiTE, under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

As part of the partnership between Global Voices and NACLA (North American Congress on Latin America), a team of five Global Voices authors from Latin America and the Caribbean will contribute weekly articles for a series about women, gender, and LGBT issues. We draw from failures and successes in Latin America and the Caribbean with an eye toward equality, advancement, and resistance for and by women and LGBT people across all borders.

We asked these five authors to tell us why they think that covering these themes in the region is important. We also asked them to share some of the online projects that they’ve discovered while covering LGBT and gender issues.

Sandra

Sandra Abd'Allah-Alvarez Ramírez [es] is Cuban. She describes herself as “a bisexual woman who loves another woman with whom she is formally married.”

“I’m Cuban, and that’s the main reason why I insistently tackle non-heteronormative sexuality, because in Cuba we have much to accomplish in that regard,” she explains. Sandra, who had to move to Germany to marry her partner, is part of Proyecto Arcoiris [es], a group of activists who are fighting against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Cuba.

Sandra pointed us to Pikara Magazine [es], a website where she often contributes [es] articles and interviews. Pikara Magazine covers news with a gender perspective, featuring people and stories that rarely appear in the media.

She also recommends visiting the blog Feminist Network Project, which seeks to “connect feminist activists around the world.”

Sandra blogs at Negra cubana tenía que ser [es] and tweets at @negracubana [es].

Ángel

“I am the son of a wonderful single mother. [She is] a person with an indomitable character, an independent spirit, and has an enviable strength. That’s why I'm interested in issues of gender equity,” Ángel Carrión [es], a Puerto Rican musician and blogger, explains.

Ángel says he has always been interested in stories about people who are marginalized by society. He thinks that valuable knowledge and perspectives are lost when people are excluded. Furthermore, Ángel feels he has a duty to draw attention to “the invisible,” and to help educate and change mentalities about LGBT and gender issues.

He recommends several projects from Puerto Rico, like Proyecto Matria [es], an organization that seeks to help victims of domestic and sexual violence on the island. He also mentions the Committee Against Homophobia and Discrimination [es], a group that started at the University of Puerto Rico, and the LGBTT Community Center of Puerto Rico [es], which offers a variety of services (legal and psychological) for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, and Transgender community.

You can follow Ángel on Twitter @angel15amc [es] and read his blog Diálogo Libre [es].

2013 pride and equality march in Santiago, Chile. Photo by Felipe Longoni, uploaded to Flickr by Movilh Chile under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

2013 pride and equality march in Santiago, Chile. Photo by Felipe Longoni, uploaded to Flickr by Movilh Chile under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Laura

Laura Vidal is a Venezuelan researcher exploring societies, their culture, and their stories. She currently lives in France.

In her opinion, “gender equality and the portrayal of movements defending the freedom of LGBT communities are fraught with misunderstandings—many intentional.” She adds that in Latin America, “the concept of gender is fiercely attacked by conservative ideas that have changed little over the years.”

Laura thinks that the debate about gender and LGBT issues in the region needs to improve, and that it is troubling to see how different parts of society dehumanize women and the LGBT community.

When asked about projects dealing with these issues, Laura mentioned the work of Coral Herrera Gómez [es], a Spanish scholar focusing on gender theory who Laura is interviewing for this series. She also mentioned the NGO Aliadas en Cadena, which organizes workshops for women affected by poverty in Venezuela.

Laura tweets at @lenguaraz.

Pamela

Pamela Martínez Achecar [es], a Dominican economist and researcher, recognizes that although Latin America and Caribbean countries have advanced rapidly in economic development and in legislation to expand freedoms for its citizens, women and the LGBT community continue to struggle to receive the same treatment their male, often straight, peers receive.

She thinks that “it is therefore vital to guide the focus of public attention to these struggles, many waged in silence, to raise awareness and to highlight the great efforts of many who are fighting against inequality.”

Pamela recommends following the Center for Gender Studies [es] from the Santo Domingo Institute of Technology, a center “devoted to higher education, research, and advocacy on public policies from a gender perspective.” She also pointed us to the Dominican feminist organization Colectiva Mujer y Salud [es] (Women and Health Collective).

Pamela blogs at Pensando a contracorriente [es] and tweets at @LlamenmePam [es].

Andrea

For Mexican journalist Andrea Arzaba, “gender equality doesn’t exist in Latin America, especially in rural communities.”

Andrea has met women from Southern Mexico who are not allowed to study beyond secondary school, “simply because they were born as women.” She has also witnessed cases of women who endure physical and psychological abuse because they are economically dependent on a man. “These are some of the cases that have inspired me to write about gender equality and to bring these issues to the online discussion.”

Andrea follows the work of World Pulse, a nonprofit social media enterprise that’s using digital media to give women from around the world a space where they can connect to each other and speak out about their issues. She also recommends following the blog Mujeres Viajeras [es] (Traveling women).

Andrea started The Sunflower Post, a blog covering news from around the world with a gender perspective, and is currently writing for several websites like Future ChallengesAnimal Político [es] and IJNET. You can read her personal blog at One Lucky Life and follow her on Twitter at @andrea_arzaba.

*

Global Voices’ mission is to shed light on stories that remain untold in the mainstream media. Women, gender, and LGBT issues are generally either invisible or distorted in public discourse around the world. This invisibilization is one of the reasons we have made the coverage of these important topics one of our priorities, and a part of our partnership with NACLA.

Stay tuned to read Sandra, Angel, Laura, Pamela, and Andrea’s posts during the following weeks!

Firuzeh Shokooh Valle contributed to this post.

November 12 2013

Worldwide Outrage Over Denationalization of Dominicans of Haitian Descent

Campaña

["#YouDon'tDoThat: Strip the Nationality from Thousands of Dominicans"] Campaign “Reconoci.do” [Recognized].  Image taken from its Facebook page.

Sentence No.168-2013 (PDF) [es], dictated by the Dominican Constitutional Court, has turned the international community on its head.  The polarization within the country has also become more palpable, and debates seen in social media networks and the press haven't taken even a minute's rest.

The Court's decision to strip the citizenship from everyone born in the country to immigrants with an illegal status since 1929 has left at least 200,000 Dominicans of Haitian descent stateless. 

Nobel Prize winner in Literature, Mario Vargas Llosa, published the controversial article “The Pariahs of the Caribbean” [es] in El País in which he compares the sentence to Nazi laws against the Jews.  He also highlights the complexity of the Dominican State in this undocumented migration process:

A la crueldad e inhumanidad de semejantes jueces se suma la hipocresía. Ellos saben muy bien que la migración “irregular” o ilegal de haitianos a la República Dominicana que comenzó a principios del siglo veinte es un fenómeno social y económico complejo, que en muchos períodos —los de mayor bonanza, precisamente— ha sido alentado por hacendados y empresarios dominicanos a fin de disponer de una mano de obra barata para las zafras de la caña de azúcar, la construcción o los trabajos domésticos, con pleno conocimiento y tolerancia de las autoridades, conscientes del provecho económico que obtenía el país [...]

Hypocrisy is added to the cruelty and inhumanity of those judges.  They know very well that the “irregular” or illegal migration of Haitians to the Dominican Republic beginning in the early 20th Century is a complex social and economic phenomenon, which at times – precisely, times of greater prosperity -  has been encouraged by land-owners and Dominican business owners in order to benefit from cheap labor for the sugar cane harvest, construction or housekeeping.  All this with full knowledge and tolerance from the authorities, themselves conscious of the economic advantage that the country obtained [...]

International organizations Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also denounced the Constitutional Court's decision.

Economist and historian, Bernardo Vega, has made claims about the topic for the program El Despertador [es] where he reiterated that:

Es el estado que tiene un compromiso moral con esas personas por traerlos aquí.

The state has a moral commitment to those people for having brought them here.

After scrutinizing the country's history from before the First World War to the present day, he strongly concludes that the Dominican Republic is knowingly responsible for these irregularities.

On the other hand, the historian Rosario Espinal's article Matanza Electoral [es] [Electoral Slaughter], airs a different perspective.  Published in her blog and in several nationally circulated newspapers, the article asserts that the drastic measures taken by the Constitutional Court respond to political interests and not to a racist war.  In her words:

Desnacionalizar los dominicanos de ascendencia haitiana tiene como objetivo inmediato sacarlos del registro electoral para que no puedan votar, y para eso tenían que sacarlos del registro civil, y para eso, el Tribunal Constitucional hizo vericuetos jurídicos hasta llegar a 1929. Los mataron electoralmente a todos de un porrazo, haciendo legal lo ilegal. He aquí el nuevo orden constitucional dominicano.

The immediate objective of denationalizing Dominicans of Haitian descent is to remove them from the electoral roll, thus, preventing them from voting.  For this reason, they had to be removed from the civil register and to do that, the Constitutional Court made several legal loopholes until it arrived at 1929.  They killed them electorally in one fell swoop and in doing so, legalized the illegal.  Behold the new Dominican constitutional order.

Whatever the reason for this sentence, unrest has spread.  On the 4th November, the coalition Dominicanos y Dominicanas por el Derecho de la Región Enriquillo [Dominicans for the Rights of the Enquillo Region] congregated and marched in the bateyes zone [rural communities situated in the outskirts of the sugar-producing district], reaffirming their rejection of the denationalization of Dominicans of Haitian descent.  A myriad of NGOs and social activists have also demonstrated against the sentence.

Meanwhile, a neo-nationalist movement has repeated again and again slogans such as “Death to the traitors” and “Them over there, us right here”

Imagen tomada de la página de Facebook de la campaña

Image taken from the Facebook page of the “Reconocido” [Recognized] campaign.

in an act celebrated in the Altar de la Patria, [es] [the Altar to the Motherland] on the 5th November.  Those responsible for said demonstration have advocated for national sovereignty on the basis of the premise that “later there won't be a motherland” if the decision is not defended.

The position of president Danilo Medino has not been able to calm the waters; far from pronouncing himself as being against these measures, he has held diplomatic meetings with dozens of ambassadors in which the scope of the sentence has been explained.

For now, we can only wait and see if international pressure, and rioting in this country, manage to push the different political entities into amending the damage caused by the fateful sentence No.168-2013.

November 07 2013

Dominican Republic and Haiti: Two very different versions

The blog Repeating Islands republished two letters to the editor of the New York Times that paint two very different pictures on the situation regarding the recent decision of the Constitutional Tribunal of the Dominican Republic to strip citizenship from all descendants of immigrants who entered the country extralegally, retroactive to 1929. The first letter is from Aníbal de Castro, Ambassador of the Dominican Republic to Washington, who considers the Dominican Republic unduly pressured by the international community:

The Dominican Republic has a legitimate interest in regulating immigration and having clear rules for acquisition of citizenship. It should not be pressured by outside actors and other countries to implement measures contrary to its own Constitution and that would be unacceptable to most other nations facing similar immigration pressures.

The second letter is signed jointly by authors Mark Kurlansky, Junot Díaz, Edwidge Danticat, and Julia Álvarez, who dispel the assurances of the ambassador that no one will be negatively affected by the Constitutional Tribunal's ruling:

The ruling will make it challenging for them to study; to work in the formal sector of the economy; to get insurance; to pay into their pension fund; to get married legally; to open bank accounts; and even to leave the country that now rejects them if they cannot obtain or renew their passport. It is an instantly created underclass set up for abuse.

November 06 2013

D.R., Haiti: We Can Work It Out?

This is an island. No way out. So these two nations, who have been doing a live rendition of a Russian novel for 500 years, are going to have to work it out.

Contrary to many of the opinions expressed in this post, Changing Perspectives weighs in on the decision by the Dominican Republic to deny citizenship to subsequent generations of illegal immigrants, most of whom are Haitian.

October 31 2013

“I'm Dominican, Just Like You”: Thousands of Dominicans of Haitian Descent Are Left Stateless

Protesters against the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic’s decision to strip thousands of citizens of their nationality. Taken from the reconoci.do Facebook page.

Protesters against the Constitutional Court's decision to strip thousands of their nationality. Taken from the Facebook page of the organization, reconoci.do.

[All links in this article lead to Spanish language sites, except where otherwise noted.]

¿Por qué en el Caribe siempre hay que huir hacia la libertad, o mejor, hacia un espacio que se dibuja en la imaginación como el de la libertad? La respuesta es obvia: las sociedades caribeñas son de las más represivas del mundo.

Antonio Benítez RojoLa isla que se repite: El Caribe y la perspectiva posmoderna

Why is it that in the Caribbean people must always flee in search of liberty, or towards an imaginary space portrayed as liberty. The answer is obvious: Caribbean societies are among the most repressive in the world.
Antonio Benítez RojoLa isla que se repite: El Caribe y la perspectiva posmoderna

Following the decision by the Constitutional Court of the Dominican Republic (Tribunal Constitucional de la República Dominicana) to strip citizenship from all those born in the country to immigrants with an illegal status, the truth contained in the above quote is revealed with stunning clarity.

The repercussions of this unappealable decision by the Constitutional Court will affect several generations of Dominicans of Haitian origin, whose families came to make their lives in the Dominican Republic. The majority have never even visited Haiti, nor have family there. Even so, from one day to another, thousands of people have been left effectively stateless.

It is unknown exactly how many people will be affected by this decision. According to information from the National Office of Statistics (Oficina Nacional de Estadísticas), there are 244,151 persons born of “foreign” parents in the Dominican Republic; 86 per cent of these are people of Haitian origin.

The reconoci.do campaign has taken up the task of collecting testimonies from Dominicans whose legal situation is now in a limbo due to the denationalisation policy of the Dominican government. Below, Deisy Toussaint [fr], a young author, the recipient of numerous national literary prizes,  describes how she was not allowed to obtain a passport in order to represent her country at international cultural events:

The reconoci.do campaign also has a Twitter presence (@reconoci_do), where it it is in active communication with its followers. On Twitter, the #EsoNoSeHaceRD [You do not do that DR] hashtag has also been created.

@Evenelr: One hundred years of injustice do not create rights… #EsoNoSeHaceRD

This Constitutional Court sentence reminds us that: racism and xenophobia are the shame of humanity.

Imagine that a group of people full of prejudice are able to decide who is and isn't Dominican. How would they feel?

The international community responded to the Constututional Court's decision with alarm. Chiara Liguori, investigator for Amnesty International in the Caribbean said:

Esta última decisión destroza totalmente las vidas de los ciudadanos dominicanos de origen haitiano, especialmente si son obligados a salir del país por el Plan Nacional de Regularización.

Es totalmente injusto decir que personas que han vivido como dominicanos durante décadas ya no pertenecen al país ni tienen ningún derecho en él.

This recent decision totally destroys the lives of Dominican citizens of Haitian origin, especially if they are forced to leave the country due to the Plan Nacional de Regularización (National Regularization Plan).

It is totally unjust to say that people who have lived as Dominicans for decades now no longer belong to the country, nor do they have any rights here.

UNICEF (The United Nations Childrens Fund) followed suit in its press release, stating that, long before the Constitutional Court’s decision, it had expressed its concern regarding the large number of children who would be left stripped of all legal protection:

En 2008, en las observaciones finales para la República Dominicana, el Comité de los Derechos del Niño señaló que el derecho constitucional de adquirir una nacionalidad por jus solis se negaba frecuentemente a niños que carecían de certificados oficiales de nacimiento o que habían nacido de padres sin residencia oficial en la República Dominicana. El Comité expresó su grave preocupación por el amplio número de niños apátridas que generaba esta política.

In 2008, in the concluding observations on the Dominican Republic, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child stated that the constutional right to acquire nationality by jus solis was frequently denied to children who lacked official birth certificates or who had been born to parents without legal residency in the Dominican Republic. The Commitee expressed its grave concern for the high number of stateless children created by this policy.

This past January, the blog La neurona impasible posted a reflection on Haiti which gains special relevance in the current moment:

Realmente somos todos Haiti ? Cuando hace tres años tembló la tierra y arrasó un ya de por sí desolado país, la comunidad internacional enseguida salío al paso con promesas de ayudas materiales y económicas. Que muchas de ellas se quedaron en eso, en promesas, al fin y al cabo publicidad para sus causas particulares y sus ansiado y ególatras baños de masas.

[...]

La comunidad internacional no ha hecho seguramente todo lo que podía, aunque los ciudadanos han hecho el grueso.

Quizás vaya siendo hora de redimirse y enmendar todos los errores del pasado.

Really are we all Haiti? When three years ago the earth shook and tore apart an already desolate country, the international community got away with mere promises of material and economic aid. The fact is that most of them remained just that; promises. Ultimately, publicity for their personal causes and ambitions, complete with egomaniacal photo-ops mingling with the victims.

[...]

The international community has clearly not done all that it could, while ordinary citizens have provided most of the relief.

Perhaps the hour of redemption and remedying of all the errors of the past is on its way.

The multifaceted author and singer Rita Indiana Hernández added her voice to the chorus of indignation in the El País newspaper:

La maldición que ahora se cierne sobre los haitianos es producto de artilugios más potentes, siniestros y escurridizos que los que se hacen acompañar del tambor. Esta magia, como otros colegas han señalado, es la que se ampara en la ley para justificar un racismo despiadado. Ya la temían las víctimas del holocausto esclavista, quienes durante generaciones le vieron la cara a esa maldad que la avaricia habilita en los hombres. Entre las muchas tradiciones heredadas por la sincrética sociedad dominicana, esta magia sobrevive de manera especial. Tras casi un siglo de trabajos forzados y maltratos de todo tipo, queremos arrebatarle el derecho a la nacionalidad a los hijos que los haitianos tienen en la República Dominicana.

The curse which now hangs over the Haitians is the product of more powerful, sinister, slippery devices than those accompanied by the beating of a drum. This magic, as others have pointed out, is enshrined in the law to justify a ruthless racism. The victims of the holocaust of slavery lived in fear of it, generations of them stared at the evil that avarice builds in men. Among the many traditions passed down by the syncretic Dominican society, this magic survives in a special way. After nearly a century of forced labour and abuse of all kinds, we want to destroy the right to citizenship of the children born to Haitians in the Dominican Republic.

Narciso Isa Conde, in the Lo Cierto Sin Censura blog, points out the racist motives behind the Constitutional Court’s decision:

Mis abuelos paternos eran árabes libaneses, vinieron con pasaportes turcos truqueados y se registraron con nombres no originales, al punto que el abuelo Antonio Isa no era ni Isa ni Antonio.

Si nos atenemos a la esencia de esa cruel sentencia, mi papá, Tony y yo, sus hijos y los míos, descendemos de “ilegales” y, entonces, deberían despojarnos de nuestra nacionalidad y documentos dominicanos.

Pero sucede que somos “blanquitos” y no provenimos de la inmigración haitiana.

Es claro que más allá de la población dominicana haitianodescendiente, muchos dominicanos y dominicanas de hoy estamos en condiciones parecidas, procedemos de troncos familiares traídos o venidos de fuera. Nuestros habitantes originarios, llamados “indios”, fueron exterminados por invasores blancos.

Entonces, es fácil percatarse del carácter racista, neonazi, de esa sentencia, en un país donde el racismo y la xenofobia dominantes se expresan fundamentalmente contra la emigración negra de origen haitiano y contra su descendencia; al extremo de imponerle la declaración como “indios/as” en el registro de identidad a los/as dominicanos/as color café o café con leche claro u oscuro.

My paternal grandparents were Lebanese Arabs, they came here on forged Turkish passports and registered with names so altered from their originals that Granddad Antonio Isa was, in actuality, neither Isi nor Antonio.

If we accept the essence of this cruel verdict, my father Tony and I, his sons and mine, descend from “illegals” and thus we should also be stripped of our Dominican nationality and papers.

But as it happens we are “white” and do not descend from Haitian immigration.

It is clear that beyond the population of Dominicans of Haitian descent, many Dominicans today are in similar circumstances; we descend from family trees which came or were brought from abroad. This country’s original inhabitants, commonly called “indios”, were exterminated by white invaders.

Thus it is easy to perceive the racist, neo-Nazi character of this decision, in a country in which the dominant racism and xenophobia is expressed fundamentally against black immigrants of Haitian origin and against their descendants. A racism which goes to the extreme of imposing the categorization of “indio” on Dominicans with coffee or milk-and-coffee coloured skin in the national identity registers.

Earlier coverage of this story can be read here.

April 27 2013

#FLISOL 2013: Hundreds of Latin Americans Installing Free Software

Flisol 2013 Banner.

Flisol 2013 Banner.

From the Patagonia to Havana, hundreds of computer users across Latin America are choosing freedom over control by installing free software on their computers. On April 27th, groups of free software enthusiasts will be installing free software in dozens of cities across Latin America as part of FLISOL [es], the Latin American free software installation festival.
(more…)

April 15 2013

Air Show Ends in Tragedy in the Dominican Republic

During the second and final day of the Caribbean Air Show, just a few minutes after it began, a T-35 Pillán aircraft, registration number FAD 1807, made in Chile and belonging to the Dominican Air Force (FAD), manned by First Lieutenant Pilot Rafael Eduardo Sánchez Astacio, and Second Lieutenant Pilot Carlos Manuel Guerrero Guerrero, experienced problems during an acrobatic stunt and fell to the sea.

The tragic accident took place on Sunday, April 7th, and was seen by thousands of Dominicans who had congregated on Santo Domingo's boardwalk to enjoy the pirouettes and feats of national and foreign pilots, drawing on the skies above the Dominican capital. Less than two hours after the incident, the two lifeless bodies were found and brought to the Dominican Naval Base in Sans Soucí and from there transferred by helicopter to the Doctor Ramón de Lara Military Hospital, FAD.

According to the organizers, the 2013 Caribbean Air Show met all the international standards for shows of this nature established by the International Council of Air Shows, which supported the show.

The President, Danilo Medina, promptly expressed his condolences:

@DaniloMedina: Lamentamos profundamente accidentes como este. Unámonos en oración al dolor de familiares y compañeros de Carlos y Rafael. Paz a sus almas.

@DaniloMedina: We deeply regret accidents like this. Let us join in prayer for the family and friends of Carlos and Rafael. Peace to their souls.

Nevertheless, it did not take long for sectors of civil society to show its discontent. Raúl Raful, son of the representative to PARLACEN (Parlamento Centroamericano-Central American Parliament) [es], Tony Raful, published on his Twitter account:

@RaulRaful: Ese equipo de rescate fue un desastre. ¿Dos buzos sin tanque iban a encontrar esos cuerpos junto con lanchitas de Boca Chica?#ShowAereo

@RaulRaful: That rescue team was a disaster. Two divers without a tank were going to find those bodies along with small boats from Boca Chica?#ShowAereo

With the same tone lawyer Bartolomé Pujals said:

@BartolomePujals: Este dramático suceso dejo claro varias cosas. 1) incompetencia de las autoridades de rescate; 2) la indolencia de los organizadores. #OJO

@BartolomePujals: This dramatic incident made a few things clear. 1) the incompetence of the rescue authorities; 2) the indolence of the organizers. #OJO

Some journalists and social network users affirmed that the plane was not suitable for doing aerial acrobatics, to which communicator and politician José Laluz responded:

@laluzjose: #ShowAereo La letra B en la matricula del Pillan significa 2da generación y la ficha técnica INDICA que son buenos para acrobacia.

@laluzjose: #ShowAereo The letter B on the registration of the Pillan means second generation and the technical data sheet INDICATES that they are good for stunts.

Now, according to declarations made to the Listín Diario [es], General Hugo González Borrel, who was the Commander-in-Chief of the Dominican Air Force when the Pillán planes were acquired by the Dominican Republic, said that it is possible that there was a human error in the aircraft's fall, in which both pilots lost their lives. Accordingly, the Dominican Air Force pointed out that they are carrying out on-site investigations in order to clarify what really happened.

Below are photos of the tragedy, taken with authorization from the news site Diario Libre [es].

Show aéreo termina en tragedia en República Dominicana. Show aéreo termina en tragedia en República Dominicana

Show aéreo termina en tragedia en República Dominicana

March 07 2013

Chavez’ Legacy & How His Death Could Affect the Caribbean

The death of former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez on Tuesday has elicited a wide range of reactions throughout the blogosphere – in Latin America, to be certain – but now across the Caribbean as well.

Naturally, the Spanish-speaking regional territories were swift in blogging about the news. From Cuba, Imagen.cu, who writes in Spanish, tried to turn reality on its head with a headline that read:

¡Chávez no ha muerto!

Chavez is not dead!

The post continued:

¡El mundo no te olvidará…CHÁVEZ ES EL PUEBLO!

The world will not forget you…Chavez is the PEOPLE!

Proposiciones echoed this view:

Chávez estará por siempre en el corazón de todos, el compromiso de vida se ensancha porque él indicó el camino a un pueblo, que en su inmensa mayoría siempre lo apoyó.

La Revolución Bolivariana llevará su impronta eternamente. Fuerza Venezuela, Chávez vivirá mientras sigamos su ejemplo…

Chavez will be forever in the hearts of all, the commitment to life broadens because he pointed the way to a people, the vast majority always supported him.

The Bolivarian Revolution will forever bear his imprint. Strength Venezuela, Chavez will live as long as we follow his example…

"Memorial for Hugo Chavez at 24th & Mission in San Francisco", by Steve Rhodes, used under a Creative Commons license

“Memorial for Hugo Chavez at 24th & Mission in San Francisco”, by Steve Rhodes, used under a Creative Commons license

The Cuban Triangle thought that:

Hugo Chavez had a pretty good run, governing Venezuela since 1999, winning four elections, and having lots of time to put in place and to develop his brand of socialism.

He made quite a mark. At a time when the hemisphere, acting through the OAS, had joined together in a commitment to reject coups d’etat and similar usurpations of democracy, he governed by winning elections and then eroding elements of Venezuela’s democracy, never quite touching a tripwire that would bring an international response. He benefited from opposition parties that had had excluded Venezuela’s poor during their decades in power, and that never found unity or balance in opposition.

Chavez cared about the poor and had an odd way of showing it. He put social programs in place – health, education, income assistance – and at the same time implemented policies that have gone a long way toward wrecking the economy in which poor Venezuelans and all others live. He drove away foreign investment, eroded property rights, imposed foreign exchange controls that distort the entire economy and lead to corruption, and created food shortages. All this, in an economy that is more than capable of maintaining both a strong private sector and a large financial commitment to fighting poverty.

The post examined the effect that Chavez’ passing could have on Cuba and took a look at the possible scenarios that could emerge from Venezuela's upcoming election:

For Cuba, the risk in Chavez’ passing is that the economic relationship with Venezuela may change or end, raising the cost of Cuba’s energy supplies and damaging the entire economy. Chavez’ socialist party, having won the presidency last October and 20 of 23 state governorships last December, has to be counted as a favorite in Venezuela’s 30-day snap election scenario. If the socialists win, the Bolivarian project would seem safe, including its international aspects. If the opposition wins, the relationship with Cuba would likely be scaled back and new prices would be attached to the doctors-for-oil swap that so benefits Cuba today.

The bottom line is that post-Chavez politics is new in Venezuela, and that brings a note of uncertainty for Cuba, the last thing el comandante Chavez would have wanted to leave behind.

Havana Times reported that Cuba was mourning Chavez, with the government declaring two days of mourning upon news of his death:

‘Chavez is also Cuban,’ said a note from the Havana government read on state television, hours after Chavez died in Caracas at age 58 due to cancer, which he had fought since mid-2011.

The Cuban government ordered that the flag be flown at half-mast Wednesday in government buildings and military installations for the official mourning.

In another post, the blog referred to Chavez as Fidel Castro's lost heir:

With the death of Hugo Chavez, Cuba also lost the longed for great political leader after the slow public demise of Fidel Castro.

An admirer and close friend of the Cuban revolutionary, the Venezuelan president was the person who best embodied the ideas of Castro in recent decades throughout Latin America.

Chavez took on the responsibility not only helping the economically troubled Cuba with oil, but to also breathe fresh air into Fidel’s political ideas.

If Castro was for Chavez the great role model to follow, Chavez was for Castro his ideal heir at the forums throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

"Memorial for Hugo Chavez at 24th & Mission in San Francisco", by Steve Rhodes, used under a Creative Commons license.

“Memorial for Hugo Chavez at 24th & Mission in San Francisco”, by Steve Rhodes, used under a Creative Commons license.

In contrast, Erasmo Calzadilla didn't get the impression that Cubans were overly moved by Chavez’ passing:

When Chavez’s death was announced, I was in the heart of the city and was able to pick up some of the spirit felt by people over the departure of the president.

I don’t know what they felt in the interior of their souls, but people on the street didn’t seem too affected by this new piece of news. It was a day like any other, except that the news was on every TV.

One of the people most moved by Chavez’s death was me.

I suspect that very difficult times will return for Cuba if Maduro is defeated in the next election.

Crises are also times of opportunity. The political earthquake could promote positive change for Cuba: more democracy, more popular empowerment and less dependence on oil.

The crisis could be exploited by the authoritarian state to further clamp down, and it could also open the nation’s doors to neoliberalism, which would be disastrous for the majority and the environment here.

Havana Times also covered a few U.S. celebrities’ reactions to the president's death; El Cafe Cubano referred to them as “dictator lovers”.

Netizen Armando Chaguaceda wrote a guest post that tried to be both respectful and personal:

Tuesday, March 5, at 5:00 pm sharp, the social networks collapsed with the death of Hugo Chavez. This took place between the tears — false and sincere — of his devotees (who seem to believe the world is ending without the physical presence of the Venezuelan leader) and the hatred — clumsy and visceral — of those who blame him for all the woes of this incurable humanity.

The historical dimension of Hugo Chavez is beyond question. His figure is part of a movement of social demands and democratic political conquests of the Venezuelan people that have grown over the last thirty years.

We owe the rise of Chavez and his movement for initiating the breakdown of neoliberal hegemony, which had produced obscene levels of inequality and social exclusion in the countries of Latin America.

Chavez is undoubtedly a person and a symbol. His image and legacy will be taken on by different peoples and perspectives. Psychologists will speak of a being clearly convinced of the need to brandish Bolivar’s sword; historians will point to his admirable ability as a political animal who won successive electoral contests until the edge of death.

Political scientists will ponder his efforts to create participatory democracy on top of the cadavers of old parties, while at the same time reproducing (and amplifying) authoritarian flaws, patronage and praetorians in Venezuelan politics.

Along the Malecon mused:

Chavez was a combative and polarizing figure. His supporters said he defended the poor and disenfranchised in Venezuela. Critics accused him of running a secretive and corrupt government, and celebrated each time new rumors surfaced that Chavez was dead.
Washington will not miss Chavez. Raúl Castro will. The oil-rich Venezuelan government provided Cuba with subsidies worth billions of dollars per year.

Cuban diaspora blog babalu was all over the story, blogging about an altercation between supporters of Chavez and a group of students in Chacao, Venezuela, reporting on what it deemed distasteful tweets from U.S. politicians and accusing Chavistas of “believing in the biggest lie of all: that socialism can really bring about prosperity and social justice.”

Netizens from the Dominican Republic also shared their thoughts about Chavez’ death and the possible implications it could have on the DR.

Interestingly, bloggers from English-speaking Caribbean territories also weighed in. From Jamaica, Tallawah commented that Chavez was “in a league of his own”, while Barbados Underground wondered about the implications “for Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean”:

His legacy will be remembered by Barbadians for an anti-American foreign policy posture and in our backyard the Petrocaribe agreement which many Caribbean islands signed are signatories.

Bermudian blogger Catch a fire was saddened to hear about Chavez’ death:

Mr Chavez, for all his faults, represented an idea, an idea that another, better, world is possible.

He pioneered the idea of a socialism for the 21st Century.

There are criticisms that can be made of his leadership, both as President of Venezuela and as a sort of de facto leader of the Latin American left – which in turn helped to inspire movements throughout the world.

For me, though, it is the idea which he represented which is his enduring legacy.

There will be regional and global consequences of his death, and I fully expect certain factions throughout Latin America, no doubt with the support, active or ‘passive’ of the USA, to try and rollback some of the gains that Chavez’s ‘Bolivarian’ socialist movement had made, be it in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Peru and elsewhere. Cuba, certainly, will be affected.

In a way his death transforms Chavez from a flawed and all-too-human into a pure ‘idea’ of this better world and the movement to build it.

The images used in this post are taken from the flickr photoset “Memorial for Hugo Chavez at 24th & Mission in San Francisco”, here and here, by Steve Rhodes, used under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license. Visit Steve Rhodes’ flickr photostream.

November 19 2012

Ibero-America: Free Software Assessment Report 2012

The recently released Free Software Assessment Report 2012 shows the opinion, assessment and preferences of more than 5,000 people from Spain and Latin America. The study published in its fourth edition is promoted by PortalProgramas and supported by a number of experts and collaborators [es]. The report aims to contribute to a better understanding, use and dissemination of free software in Latin America. The summary of the study can be accessed online [es] and more information can be found on the report's conclusions for 2012 [es].

November 15 2012

A Sunday of Mourning in the Dominican Republic

On Sunday 11th of November, Independence Park in the Colonial City of Santo Domingo was the meeting point for more than 6 thousand protesters [es] who were protesting against the Fiscal Reform and rejecting the assasination of young student Willy Florián at the hands of the police last Thursday 8th November (also dead is teacher Angela Heredia Moquete [es], after being wounded by police during a demonstration). The protesters expressed themselves with a wide range of signs and slogans [es] in front of the Puerta del Conde (Count’s Gate), the site of the first act of independence of the Dominican Republic on 27th February 1844, and where the national flag was raised for the first time. A peaceful environment and respect were the norm during the more than five hours that the event lasted.

Political personalities, opposition legislators, intellectuals and communicators

Protesta en Parque Independencia

Protest in Independence Park, Santo Domingo.

joined the thousands of young people who, without class distinction, were united by the same interests: to confront a government that is glaringly corrupt and unjust. However, there was tension in the air. The new administration headed by President Danilo Medina, which succeeded the last led by Leonel Fernández Reyna, has received a widespread and steadfast rejection by ample sectors of Dominican society. Experts predict that it is scarcely the beginning of what may culminate in a strong popular revolt if the government remains deaf to the cries of its people.

Dominicans not only refuse to accept the Fiscal Reform [es], but also demand corrupt officials be executed and penalised for their disloyal practices. The indignation has reached the point that even pro-government supporters of the ruling party, the Partido de la Liberación Dominicana (Dominican Liberation Party or PLD), have declared themselves against the government's measures.

Protesta contra la Reforma Fiscal en Santo Domingo.

Protest against the Fiscal Reform in Santo Domingo.

TV presenter and communicator, Nashla Bogaert, commented on the protest:

@NashlaBogaert[es]:Hoy, el corazón de mi Patria palpitó en el pecho de miles de dominicanos. Somos fuerza. Despertamos y no volveremos a dormir.

Today, the heart of my homeland was beating in the chest of thousands of Dominicans. We are strong. We have woken up and will not go back to sleep.

Meanwhile her colleague in the media, Diana Lora, shared some of the slogans that those present were chanting:

@Diana_Lora[es]: Consignas en el parque: “allá en el Congreso un bulto tapado, son todos los millones que ellos se han robado”

Slogans in the park: over in Congress there is a concealed stash, it’s all the millions they have stolen”

@Diana_Lora[es]: Consignas en el parque: ay mami tengo hambre, mi hijo come impuestos!

Slogans in the park: Oh mummy I’m hungry, my son eats taxes!

@Diana_Lora[es]: Consignas en el parque: llegaron en chancletas y salieron en yipetas!

Slogans in the park: they arrived in flip-flops and left in SUVs!

The civil society organisations, El Centro Bonó (Bonó Center) [es], El Foro Social Alternativo (The Alternative Social Forum), el Frente Amplio de Lucha Popular (FALPO) (The Broad Front of Popular Struggle), the Movimiento Toy Jarto (Toy Jarto Movement), Justicia Fiscal (Fiscal Justice) and dozens of other institutions supported the protest - considered a great achievement for the citizens. Indeed, comparisons are circulating on the Internet (like those below) between the Sunday of Mourning and the demonstrations of 1965 against North American intervention in the Dominican Republic.

Comparación entre protestas en 1965 y 2012.

Comparison between protests in 1965 and 2012. Image widely reproduced over the Internet.

Protesta contra reforma fiscal, Santo Domingo.

WE WILL NOT FINANCE WASTE

Protesta contra reforma fiscal, Santo Domingo.

LET THE GUILTY BE THE FIRST TO PAY

Protesta contra reforma fiscal, Santo Domingo.

I DON'T FEAR REPRESSION BY THE STATE, I FEAR SILENCE FROM MY PEOPLE

Protesta contra reforma fiscal, Santo Domingo.

AT LAST WE ARE WAKING UP

Protesta contra reforma fiscal, Santo Domingo.

WHAT A BANQUET THEY ARE GIVING WITH YOUR COUNTRY

However, the protest was not restricted to the Capital, in the heart of the city the province of Santiago de los Caballeros also hosted a homologous mobilization in front of the Heroes of the Restoration Monument, located in the centre of the locality. Absent Dominicans did not remain silent either and met symbolically in front of Dominican embassies in the countries where they currently reside.

Protestantes frente a Embajada Dominicana en Mexico Vía @periodico7dias.

Protesters in front of the Dominican Embassy in Mexico via @periodico7dias.


Dominicanos frente a su embajada en España Vía @maribelnexos

Protesters in front of their embassy in Spain via @maribelnexos.

** All photos were taken by the author, unless otherwise indicated.

November 13 2012

Blogging Contest Focuses on Child Development

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has announced its first contest for bloggers, which will focus on issues related to child development:

Now is your chance to share your ideas! You can tell us about a child development success story in your country or analyze various innovative methodologies. The topic is open. In order to participate, you just have to get your creative juices flowing and share your winning idea with us.

(more…)

November 12 2012

Student Dies in Protests in Dominican Republic

In the wake of the Fiscal Reform submitted to the National Congress, which was met with strong disapproval by civil society, the business sector and trade unions, various movements in opposition to the bill have been organized [es]. Demonstrations have been taking place since the 4th of October, when the draft bill was announced. However, since Tuesday the 6th of November, citizens have increased the intensity of their protests, with daily numbers up.

On Thursday, the 8th of November, the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo, the sole public university in the country, was the scene of one of these anti-government protests. But as is customary—and in spite of different regulations which prohibit it—students were confronted by a unit of armed police,  culminating in the death of 21-year-old William Florián Ramírez [es], a third-year medical student, hit by a bullet to the chest.

El estudiante asesinado, Willy Florian, siendo llevado por encapuchados fuera de la zona de disturbios.

Killed student, Willy Florián, as he was taken away from the disturbances by hooded individuals. This image has been widely disseminated over the Internet.

The indignation took little time to be felt on social networks and on pirate radio. Civic leader Elizabeth Mateo, popularly known as the leader of the fight to get 4% of GDP spent on education, published the following on Twitter:

@ElizabethMateo: Condeno la muerte del estudiante de la UASD. Exijo justicia.

@ElizabethMateo: I condemn the killing of the UASD student. I demand justice.

Likewise, investigator, consultant and columnist Olaya Dotel, stated:

Young man calls for civil mobilization.

Young man calls for civil mobilization. Taken from the page of the Bonó Centre and reproduced with permission.

@OlayaDotel: Los corruptos que hoy controlan el Estado no valen una gota de sangre de nuestros jóvenes… Ni uno más!!!

@OlayaDotel: These corrupt individuals in control of the State are not worth a drop of the blood of our young people…not one more!!!

The controversy has spread so far that René, vocalist in the popular Puerto Rican group Calle 13, commented on the incident:

@Calle13Oficial: El mundo está mirando a República Dominicana esperando que se haga justicia por el asesinato del joven estudiante de medicina Willy Warden!

@Calle13Oficial: The world is looking at the Dominican Republic, hoping that justice will be done for the death of the young medical student Willy Warden!

All of these incidents have taken place as it was revealed that, during the precarious economic conditions and high social tension the country is currently facing,

Young people hold up signs outside the National Congress, in protest against the Fiscal Reform.

Young people hold up signs outside the National Congress, in protest against the Fiscal Reform.Taken with permission from the page of the Bonó Centre and reproduced with their permission.

the Minister of Education, Josefina Pimentel, increased her own salary by 62% [es], from RD$185,000.00 to RD$300,000.00 a month, equivalent to USD $7,500.00.

The fusion of these and other trigger issues, far from discouraging protestors, has renewed their revolutionary spirit. A group of around 100 people, including public figures and media, congregated in front of the buildings of the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development [es] (FUNGLODE), an institution set up by former president Leonel Fernández Reyna, who is deemed responsible for having bankrupted the nation during his eight years in power (see video here) [es].

Protestors placed candles in the street and sang their condemnation in unison, at the top of their lungs. Twitter was the medium which gave the most coverage to the event, with Twitterers grouping themselves together under the hashtag #FrenteaFunglode. Reporter Maribel Hernández shared this from her Twitter account:

@MaribelNexos: Policía Nacional una banda criminal, vocifera la masa #FrenteaFunglode.

@MaribelNexos: The National Police, a criminal gang, shouts the #FrenteaFunglode crowd.

@MaribelNexos: La masa grita La Fundación Global verguenza nacional.  #FrenteaFunglode #FrenteaFunglode

@MaribelNexos: The crowd is screaming Global Foundation, national shame. #FrenteaFunglode #FrenteaFunglode

But things don't stop there. Both civil organizations and individuals have flooded the Internet with a grand display of creativity, via numberless ads and images against the pro-government party and the current administration, such as those displayed below. In the same vein, various mobilizations at all levels were planned for Friday, the 9th of November, as well as for the rest of the week. I leave you with some of the calls to protest and examples of graphical artwork focused on the events.

 

 

October 05 2012

Dominican Republic: Proposal to Toughen Sentences for Minors

[links in Spanish] On the 19th of September, the House of Representatives approved on second reading a controversial bill which amends seven articles of the Protection of the Rights of Boys, Girls and Adolescents Code (Minor Code-PDF). This reform aims to raise the maximum penalties for citizens who commit crimes before reaching the age of majority. The initiative, which has yet to be passed or debated by the Senate, proposes an increase of 3-10 years in prison for criminals aged 13-15, while for those between 16 to 18 years of age, the increase ranges from 5-15 years in prison.

On the first reading of the bill, it was passed with 99 votes in favour, out of a total of 112 participating representatives, and in the second reading with 95; in both cases, an overwhelming majority. This initiative has the support of the three-time representative and current president of the Lower Chamber, Abel Martínez, who has stated that the measure will help decrease the delinquency rate. Other important figures have also expressed that they consider this reform necessary. One key example is the five-time representative, Pelegrín Castillo, who stated the following on his Twitter account:

@pelegrinc: Amendment to the Minor Code made by @diputadosrd. It's sad to have to toughen public and judicial sanctions against minors, but it's inevitable.

However, various sectors of civil society have not shown the same support for the regulation. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has spearheaded criticism against this piece of legislation. On the 20th of this month, a press conference was held in which the organization made clear its stance against the proposal, underscoring that this was not the answer to the wave of delinquency with which the Dominican Republic is currently grappling. In this vein, the well known social activist, Sergia Galván, updated her Twitter account with multiple criticisms such as:

@sergiagalvan: It is questionable to sanction girls, boys and adolescents who in many cases are victims of social exclusion.

@sergiagalvan: I'm asking, is more jail time for girls, boys and adolescents going to tackle delinquency?

In addition, the famous constitutional lawyer, Nassef Perdomo, stated:

@NassefPerdomo: Sad is the destiny of the country that believes that the place of its children is in prison, rather than in the classroom.

In the House of Representatives itself, although by an almost insignificant minority, there has been a degree of opposition. Representative Guadalupe Valdez – best known for her work on women's rights and gender equality – while not rejecting the proposals, has, in a post published on her website, called for a social consensus to be reached before the passing of new legislation and for the benefits to be weighed, as well as the setbacks.

For the moment, the outcome of the Upper Chamber's discussions on the initiative, due to take place next week, are awaited, as is the possibility of an agreement being reached between UNICEF and other civil society organizations working for the rights of the affected groups.

August 10 2012

August 08 2012

Dominican Republic: Pride and Celebration of Félix Sánchez' Gold

The Dominican Republic is celebrating the gold medal Félix Sánchez, also know as “Super Félix” (@elsupersanchez [es]), won at the 400 hurdles event in the London 2012 Olympic Games. His achivement gives the Caribbean country its second Olympic gold medal. Sanchez had already made history by winning the first Olympic gold for the Dominican Republic in Athens 2004.

Along with Sanchez' gold medal, Dominicans are also exultant for the silver medal won by Luguelín Santos (@LuguelinSantos [es]) in the 400 mts. race. It is the first time that two Domincans win medals in Athletics events at the same Olympic Games, something that has caused great excitment in the country.

Félix Sánchez. Picture posted by Jonasmrcds in Wikimedia Commons and republished under License CC BY-SA 3.0

Sánchez' victory came in a very special moment when the future of his career was uncertain. He suffered an injury in 2004 during a race in the Golden European League that forced him to stay away from competitions for a while. When he came back his performance wasn't as good as before so many start suggesting he should retire. This, along with his age (34), was the reason his gold medal was a surprise for many.

But maybe the key story came just before he competed in the Olympic Games of Beijing 2008, when Sánchez received the terrible news of the death of his beloved grandmother. This affected his performance during those games. In fact, one of the most emotional moments [es] during his triumph last August 6th in London was when he pulled out a picture of his grandmother that he had put close to his chest, and dropped to the ground to kiss it. “Super Félix” also had the word “grandmother” written on his running shoes, and during the award ceremony he sobbed.

Dominican netizens have expressed their feelings for Félix Sánchez through Twitter:

@YMHBONI [es]: @elsupersanchez gracias por darle este honor a Rep. Dom. Eres grande Félix.. Cuanto orgullo para nosotros.

@YMHNONI: @elsupersanchez thank you for giving this honor to the Dom.Rep. You are great Felix… how proud we feel.

@bellozaidy [es]: Hoy fue un dia glorioso, donde el Dominicano donde quiera que este en cualquier rincon del mundo se conecto a través de una lagrima!

@bellozaidi: Today was a glorious day when every Dominican anywhere in the world was connected through a tear!

@Bagui44Nunez [es]: @elsupersanchez Dios te siga bendiciendo,lo que mas me gusta es el reconocimiento a tu abuela,eso te hace un hombre humilde.

@Bagui44Nunez: @elsupersanchez May God keep blessing you, what I liked the most was the tribute to your grandma, that makes you a humble man.

Luguelín Santos @LuguelinSantos [es] also took the opportunity to congratulate Sánchez:

@LuguelinSantos [es]: Felicidades eres @elsupersanchez un verdadero campeon olimpico!

@LuguelinSantos: Congratulations @elsupersanchez you are a true Olympic champion!

The President Elect of the Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina, joined the congratulations on Twitter:

@DaniloMedina [es]: El país está de fiesta. ¡Dos medallas en menos de una hora! Felicidades a Félix Sánchez y a Luguelín Santos por sus hazañas esta tarde

@DaniloMedina: The country is celebrating. Two medals in less than an hour! Congratulations to Féliz Sánchez and Luguelín Santos for their feats of this afternoon

*Thumbnail picture taken from this video.

Video: No Pool? No Problem! Creative Solutions to the Heat

The hot summer in the Northern hemisphere is forcing many people to seek ways in which to escape the high temperatures or get some relief. These next images and videos show how with creativity and ingenuity, people young and old find ways in which to beat the heat.

Children in Medellín Colombia beat the heat by filling up a skateboarding pit with water and cooling off. The skateboarding pit is part of the park structures built by the Metro system in the areas directly under the Metrocable aereal gondola lift system. The photograph was taken by Diego Alzate while on vacation in Colombia this past July, 2012; and is used with his permission.

Children flood a skateboarding pit to make a pool for themselves

Children flood a skateboarding pit to make a pool for themselves in Medellin, Colombia, picture by Diego Alzate, used with his permission

In Hong Kong, schoolchildren play under the fountain at the Hong Kong Park in order to cool off.

In the Siloé neighborhood of Cali, Colombia, these children decided to transform the open air theater pit into their pool.

But the heat solutions can also come in smaller sizes: in the Dominican Republic a washing tub on the street is the perfect size for one.

This large, old styrofoam container looks like it may have been an appliance in a past life: in its new life it has become a small pool for two young girls in Brazil

What if you are stuck in your home or office and have no air conditioning? This old fashioned method of putting a fan behind a pile of ice might do the trick.

How do you beat the heat?

June 27 2012

Puerto Rico: Francheska Duarte's Case Causes Outrage

[All links lead to sites in Spanish.]

Puerto Rico is in a state of shock after the ruling of a judge from the Superior Court of San Juan in the case of a young woman, Francheska Duarte, who was run over and later abandoned in an emergency medical centre by her ex-boyfriend on December 19, 2011. The young mother was caught between two cars and lost both her legs due to the extent of her injuries.

Nerisvel Durán, the judge presiding over the case, found Francheska's former boyfriend Jorge Ramos guilty only of the less serious misdemeanor of negligent injury and violation of Puerto Rico's traffic laws; the charges of aggravated battery that were brought against him were dismissed. Ramos was also on probation for charges related to drug trafficking. The judge justified his decision by saying that the prosecution failed to prove that Ramos intended to hurt the young woman.

The governor of Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuño, interceded on behalf of Francheska calling for the maximum sentence to be imposed upon the offender, which in this case would be three years' imprisonment. He said he found the judge's decision strange:

Desgraciadamente, tenemos que respetar el tercer poder, el poder judicial. No quiero que se malinterpreten mis comentarios… pero choca, a base de los hechos que conocemos públicamente, uno esperaría que (la decisión judicial) sea más fuerte.

Unfortunately, we must respect the third power: the judiciary. I do not want my comments to be misinterpreted… but it is shocking, based on publicly known facts. One would expect (the ruling) to be stronger.

The general sense of disbelief at the judge's decision can be seen on social networks. Several people have shared news of the judge's shortcomings, and at least two Facebook pages showing support for Francheska Duarte have been launched. Twitter user David Rivera said:

@davidrivera1285: Como la jueza tiene sus piernas pues q se joda!

@davidrivera1285: Since the judge has her two legs, she doesn't give a damn!

Kay.Emn directed her frustration at Puerto Rico's judicial system:

@karlivyris: Sistema judicial tan basura

@karlivyris: The judicial system is a load of rubbish.

Journalist Benjamín Torres Gotay made the following observation:

@TorresGotay: Miren el caso de Francheska Duarte y pregúntense por qué es que nadie cree nada en este país.

@TorresGotay: Look at Francheska Duarte's case and ask yourselves why nobody believes anything in this country.

Francheska's case is part of an alarming trend of violence against women in Puerto Rico. In recent years there has been an increase in the number of cases of violence against women. A dramatic example of this was in 2011, the year in which a four-month period saw 16 women killed by their partners, which equalled the total number of murders of women in the entire 2007. Professor Diana Valle Ferrer, in an article published last year in Prensa Comunitaria, says:

Este entramado de violencia ejercido contra las mujeres ha sido reconocido a nivel global como una epidemia o pandemia, y en Puerto Rico como una emergencia social. Tal vez algunas personas piensan que esto es una exageración o una hipérbole pero los números y los hechos no mienten.

This network of violence against women has been recognized globally as an epidemic or pandemic, and in Puerto Rico as a social emergency. Maybe some people think this is an exaggeration or hyperbole, but the facts and figures do not lie.

It is necessary to add that the Dominican community in Puerto Rico (Francheska is Dominican) has been and continues to be victimised by ethnic violence and discrimination. Puerto Rico's Consul of the Dominican Republic, Maximo Taveras, said that the judge's ruling could be a result of this discrimination:

Este fallo puede ser interpretado como una acción discriminatoria por el origen de la perjudicada, lo que consideramos como un revés y un precedente nefasto para la administración de justicia en Puerto Rico, especialmente en el procesamiento de los casos en que las víctimas son inmigrantes.

This ruling can be interpreted as a discriminatory action because of the injured woman's origins. We consider this a setback and an ominous precedent for the administration of justice in Puerto Rico, especially in the processing of cases in which victims are immigrants.

The Consul said that he has asked the Attorney General, Guillermo Somoza, to see if there is a way the case can be reviewed. Somoza has affirmed that the case cannot be reviewed because the law prohibits double jeopardy, which is known in legal terms as non bis in idem.

The Dominican community is holding a march scheduled for next July 1 in support of Francheska Duarte and all the survivors of domestic violence and their families. Luis Aguasvivas, one of the coordinators of the march and president of the Dominican Parade in Puerto Rico said:

Necesitamos darle un importante espaldarazo y apoyo como sociedad, a las víctimas y sus familiares, enviarles el mensaje claro de que no están solos, que cada ciudadano de buen corazón estamos con ellos.

We need to give a major boost and support victims and their families as a society, sending them a clear message that they are not alone, and that every good-hearted citizen is behind them.

June 14 2012

Dominican Republic: Postelectoral Report

Writer and blogger Pedro Cabiya analyzes the results [es] of the recent Dominican presidential elections with irony and humor.

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